Cystopteris - Woodsiaceae

Cystopteris fragilis (L.)Bernh. ssp. fragilis






Polypodium fragile L.

Common name


Rhizome shortly creeping or ± erect, c. 2 mm in diameter; rhizome scales lanceolate in outline, 3 x 0.6 mm, reddish to dark brown, glabrous, sometimes with marginal glands. Fronds monomorphic, ± tufted or closely spaced, membranous. Stipe usually shorter than the lamina, 3–22 cm long, straw-coloured to dark brown, with lanceolate scales at the base but glabrous at maturity. Lamina narrowly elliptic, lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, 5–37 x 1.5–15 cm, 1–3-pinnate and 3(–4)-pinnatifid, basal pinnae not or slightly reduced; pinnae in 4–20 pairs, ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 2-8 x 1–4 cm, basal secondary pinnae shortly petiolate, remainder adnate; pinnules pinnatifid into obtuse to acute, oblong lobes; texture very thin and membranous; both surfaces glabrous; marginscrenate or with acute teeth; veins directed into teeth or sinuses; rhachis strawcoloured, glabrous. Sori round, discreet to overlapping at maturity, 0.7-1 mm in diameter; indusia bladder-like, ovate to oblong or cup-shaped, dentate to lacerate, often disappearing with age.



fragilis: fragile, delicate; referring to the fronds.


Among grass and herbs in fairly open places; shady and moist positions on rocks and cliffs; in the spray of waterfalls; in cool, montane wet forest community.

Distribution worldwide

Cosmopolitan: Europe, nothern Asia, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, in the New world from Greenland to Argentinia, Africa except for south-central Africa.

Distribution in Africa

Algeria, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Morocco and Western Sahara, South Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, Tanzania , Tunesia.

Growth form



  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 279 - 280. As C. fragilis
  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 706 - 707. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 402 - 403. As C. fragilis (Includes a picture).
  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Page 215.
  • Tardieu-Blot, M.-L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.3.Flore du Cameroun, Page 228. (Includes a picture).
  • Verdcourt, B. (2003) Woodsiaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 4 - 7. As C. fragilis (Includes a picture).